|Ottawa Senators centre Jason Spezza, right, will go head-to-head with New Jersey Devils centre John Madden in Round 2. Photo: J. McIsaac/Getty Images/NHLI|
by Todd Anderson
Each Ottawa Senators line contributed to the team's success in Round 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that will have to continue against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference semifinals. With the Devils checking line of John Madden, Jay Pandolfo and Sergei Brylin expected to challenge the Senators' top line of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, other units will have to chip in for Ottawa.
"We have a well-balanced team. We have confidence in the guys we have here. We have some good players on every line," Senators centre Antoine Vermette says. "We're really focused on our game. If you look at our first series, I thought every guy had to play in certain situations. That's good that guys can play in different roles."
While the Senators acknowledge the defensive expertise of Madden and the Devils, they have confidence they can still make things happen offensively.
"The challenge is to not get frustrated," Senators centre Jason Spezza says of the Devils' persistence at slowing down games with their defensive style and patience. "We have to make sure we stick to our plan and keep moving our feet and cycling the puck. We'll get lots of chances. We just have to make sure when we get them that we put them in the net.
"If we can roll four lines and we're fresh when we go up against those guys, hopefully we're a little more of a handful for them."
Heatley adds that while Madden's line has a solid reputation of being a shutdown unit, you have to be aware of its scoring abilities as well.
"They're a line that thrives on shutting guys down, but at the same time, they can score some goals, too, if you're not responsible in your own end. They're going to check us tight. We've got to get the puck down low and do our thing from there. We know we can score goals against them. It's just a matter of doing it."
Senators head coach Bryan Murray agrees with Heatley that maybe the Devils' reputation as a defence team overshadows the offensive abilities of stars in their lineup.
"They don't give up a lot of great scoring chances. Defence is a priority, but I don't think we should ever underrate their top two lines," Murray says. "They've got quick people who score goals. The (Scott) Gomez line is a threat almost every time they're on the ice, and there's no question (Zach) ParisÃ© has become what everybody thought when they saw him in junior. He's a top player now."
Still, Murray has all the confidence that any one of his lines will match up well against New Jersey's top two units.
"I thought our fourth line in the Pittsburgh series created lots of havoc. They were probably the best hitting group I have, and they all skate so well. If I get caught out there with the Gomez line against (Ottawa's Dean) McAmmond's, I'm okay with that."